Only three hours into TechFestNW, #WeAllWinPDX was trending in Portland’s Twitter-verse.

In June, more than a dozen prominent Portland tech leaders pledged to actively promote racial and gender diversity within their companies. To help the city’s tech community make good on that commitment, the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s (SOJC) Agora Journalism Center led a digital conversation about diversity issues at Willamette Week’s TechFestNW conference in August. Throughout the two-day event, Agora’s project team posed questions pegged to the on-stage presentations, and audience members spoke back on Twitter, sharing their insights and expertise using the hashtag #WeAllWinPDX.

“We wanted the conversation to be framed and led by the community,” says Andrew DeVigal, SOJC chair of journalism innovation and civic engagement. “Developing the questions with partners from the community helped us highlight the issues and challenges that this city’s tech leaders are actually facing.” Jomo Greenridge, founder of Brothamantech, a tech education program for black youth in Portland, was one of the project collaborators in attendance. Greenridge says he was initially surprised when DeVigal reached out to him about forging a partnership (“I’m not a journalist, so what’s your interest?”) — but he quickly bought into the Agora Journalism Center’s vision for spurring productive civic dialogue in local communities, especially those of color. “Conversations can be the beginning of a relationship, and authentic relationships break down division,” Greenridge says. “There’s a huge role for journalists in helping facilitate those conversations.”

Several speakers at TechFestNW tackled issues of diversity head-on. In her presentation “How to Stop Talking About Diversity and Actually Do Something About It,” Brittany Laughlin, a venture capitalist for Union Square Ventures, shared a story from a recent CEO summit, where one tech executive admitted losing out on a top CTO candidate because of his company’s all-male leadership team. “The candidate told him, ‘I love your company, I love your mission, I love what you do, but I don’t want to work at a company that has no women in its leadership,’” explains Laughlin. Citing a recent finding that companies with at least one female founder perform 63 percent better than all-male teams, Laughlin offered tips for how companies can take action on workplace diversity—and boost their bottom lines in the process. That message struck a chord on Twitter.

The #WeAllWinPDX conversation sparked some buzz in the Portland media, both social and traditional. On Thursday, the hashtag rose to No. 6 on Portland’s list of hottest Twitter hashtags, and later that afternoon the campaign was featured in a web story by Portland Business Journal.

To read more from the TechFestNW Twitter conversation, visit the Agora Journalism Center’s #WeAllWinPDX landing page.

Story by Ben DeJarnette, MS ’15